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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Gainesville’s go-to music venues

Gainesville is known for its niche music scene. These staple spots keep it alive

Quincy Allen-Flint performs an acoustic set at the High Dive, located at 210 SW 2nd Ave., during the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally on June 5, 2021.
Quincy Allen-Flint performs an acoustic set at the High Dive, located at 210 SW 2nd Ave., during the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally on June 5, 2021.

Whether a local young musician or an established national touring band, Gainesville’s music scene has a reputation for welcoming all kinds of artists with arms outstretched. 

The array of concerts and music festivals fundamental to the city’s culture, however, would be nonexistent if it weren’t for the music venues that host them.

Gainesville is home to several stages, but a select few have been especially crucial in carrying on the city’s legacy. For new and returning UF students coming to campus this Fall, the Gainesville concert experience would be incomplete without visiting  Heartwood Soundstage, Hardback Cafe, High Dive and The Wooly

Heartwood Soundstage

Heartwood Soundstage opened Feb. 25, 2017, with the Heartwood Music Festival, a multi-stage, all-ages event featuring bands from all around the state of Florida. 

Since then, 17 Grammy-Award-winning artists, such as John Paul White and Shaun Martin, have played at the venue, located at 619 S. Main St. This year, Heartwood is broadening its focus from primarily local bands to more national touring bands, co-owner Dave Melosh said.

“Heartwood aspires to be a central community gathering place for a wide variety of musical genres,” he said. “We are a music venue founded by musicians, for musicians.”

Heartwood was built on the site of the old Mirror Image recording studio and though the venue still functions as a recording studio, it also hosts live performances. Heartwood expanded in 2017 to include an indoor acoustic stage with a capacity of 150 people and an outdoor stage that holds 1,500 people. 

Melosh and his partners hired Paul Pavelka, a former post-production engineer for Warner Brothers, to design the interior soundstage. The finished design included a full audio and video setup, which the venue has used to record some of its live shows. Heartwood’s live video sessions have brought in tens of thousands of viewers from livestreams as well as over 670,000 total views on YouTube, according to Melosh.  

“One thing that makes us a little different from other venues is that we are an audio and video production soundstage, so almost all of our shows are filmed and live-streamed,” he said. “It’s the best sound room in Gainesville, hands down.” 

This year, Heartwood is planning for several different festivals and concerts. Highlights of this semester’s upcoming events include Heartwood’s annual Back To School Fest on Aug. 28, The Gainesville Reggae Festival on Sept. 25 and The Fest ‘19 and the Tom Petty Music Festival in October. 

Hardback Cafe

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Hardback Cafe’s history is a long and winding one, with the venue undergoing several evolutions since its opening in April 1989. 

Throughout the 1990s, the Hardback occupied the spaces now known as Boca Fiesta, The Backyard and Palomino Pool Hall. Concentrating on up-and-coming local acts, it hosted some of the early shows for bands like Less Than Jake and River Phoenix’s group Aleka’s Attic, according to Gainesville Downtown

The venue closed in 1999, resulting in a 16-year hiatus. Owner Alan Bushnell reopened the Hardback on Dec. 11, 2015 on West University Avenue after “seeing a resurgence of local musicians who needed a place to play,” according to WUFT News.

In 2018, the Hardback moved to its current location at 920 NW Second St. Since its move, the venue has served as a performance space as well as a drive-thru market known as Undertown, selling milk, eggs, cigarettes, coffee and cans of beer.

From special screenings of Tom Miller’s The Seven Sides of Shakespeare to performances by local crust punk and sludge metal hybrid acts like Baptized in Piss, the Hardback’s collection of nightlife events is truly one of a kind. 

“Hardback Cafe is primarily a venue for new performance art,” according to the venue’s website.  “Shows can involve videos, projections, live painting, theatre, rock bands, hip hop. Anything goes at the Hardback.”

High Dive

Hosting between 200 to 250 events a year, High Dive has become one of the most prominent venues in Gainesville, reputable for being a space concert-goers would expect to find only in a larger city. 

“Seeing a live show with your friends, loved ones and hundreds of strangers is a visceral shared moment that can only be experienced in-person to be appreciated,” Pat Lavery, High Dive’s facility and events manager, wrote in an email. “At High Dive, we like to think we provide one of the best venues in the area to do this.”

The site, located at 210 SW Second Ave, is the former home of Common Grounds and Covered Dish. Today, the building is shared between High Dive and Five Star Pizza. Dating back to the ‘90s, High Dive’s location has seen influential bands such as Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Black Keys, Paramore and more come to the stage, as well as comedians like Eric Andre and Patton Oswalt. 

“High Dive is the epicenter and the soul of Gainesville's live music scene,” Lavery said. “We routinely bring well-known, national touring artists of all kinds to Gainesville in a laid back, yet professional environment.”

High Dive officially opened under its current name in July 2011, making this year its 10-year anniversary. 

The venue has one of its busiest Fall schedules yet, according to Lavery. Some upcoming shows include performances by flipturn, Mayday Parade, Hobo Johnson, Chris Renzema, The Hails, Beach Fossils and comedian Ginger Billy. High Dive will also host the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally and  live performances of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, along with many other events traditional to the venue, in the coming months. 

The Wooly

Located at 20 N. Main St, The Wooly first opened its doors in 2013 as a venue for The Fest, a yearly punk music festival in Gainesville that draws in tens of thousands of attendees annually. The Wooly is a 4,400-square-foot indoor venue that garnered a following from its past performances from acts like Kississippi, Mom Jeans and The Casualties.

The Wooly is best-known for its nostalgic Pop Punk & Emo Nights, which take place on the last Saturday of the month. The Pop Punk & Emo Nights feature DJs and live performers who play songs by artists like Paramore, Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, Sleeping With Sirens, Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At the Disco and A Day To Remember.

In addition to its live-music events, the venue hosts film screenings for cult classics like The Big Lebowski, “beer dinners” with local brewing companies and themed public game nights. One of The Wooly’s most recent events, July 16’s “X-Brides Club,” was tailored to brides, bridesmaids and divorcees.

The Wooly is part of Top Secret Events, a group of unique venue spaces in Downtown Gainesville. Top Secret Events facilitates bookings for wedding receptions, holiday and cocktail parties, and other private events at The Wooly, The Depot Event Space and The Boxcar Bar. 

Contact Brenna Sheets at . Follow her on Twitter @BrennaMarieShe1.

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